Decision : Closed after initial enquiries
Decision date : 27 Mar 2020
The Ombudsman's final decision:
Summary: The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint that the Council breached data protection by disclosing personal information about him to a third party. This is because the Information Commissioner’s Office is the appropriate body to deal with his concerns.
- Mr B complains the Council breached data protection by disclosing personal information about him to a third party.
The Ombudsman’s role and powers
- We investigate complaints about ‘maladministration’ and ‘service failure’. In this statement, I have used the word ‘fault’ to refer to these. We must also consider whether any fault has had an adverse impact on the person making the complaint. I refer to this as ‘injustice’. We provide a free service, but must use public money carefully. We may decide not to start or continue with an investigation if we believe there is another body better placed to consider this complaint. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
- We normally expect someone to refer the matter to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) if they have a complaint about data protection. However, we may decide to investigate if we think there are good reasons. (Local Government Act 1974, section 24A(6), as amended)
How I considered this complaint
- I considered Mr B’s complaint and the Council’s comments, and invited Mr B to comment on a draft of this decision.
What I found
- Mr B says the Council disclosed personal information about his health to a third party without his consent. He says the Council breached his data protection rights in doing so.
- The ICO is the UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights. It promotes openness by public bodies and protects the privacy of individuals. It deals with complaints about public authorities’ failures to comply with data protection legislation. This includes wrongly disclosing personal information.
- There is no charge for making a complaint to the ICO, and its complaints procedure is relatively easy to use. Where someone has a complaint about data protection, the Ombudsman usually expects them to bring the matter to the attention of the ICO.
- The ICO is better placed than the Ombudsman to consider Mr B’s complaint. It can decide if the Council has wrongly disclosed information about Mr B. The ICO has much wider powers than the Ombudsman to act if it finds the Council has failed in its duties as a data controller. Mr B should therefore complain to the ICO because it is the appropriate body to deal with his concerns.
- The Ombudsman will not investigate Mr B’s complaint because the Information Commissioner’s Office is the appropriate body to deal with his concerns.
Investigator's decision on behalf of the Ombudsman